Monday, December 14, 2009

Happy Holidays from the MTA!!

By Maurice Michaane

So this past Saturday I had dinner with Father Tony and his partner at Vatan Indian restaurant in Gramercy. We set 6:30pm as the meeting time! Low and behold, this high-maintenance queen was waiting, and it wasn’t until 6:55pm that they arrived.

Why where they late? The 1-2-3 (the red line for you out of town folk) was having extreme delays. It’s the holiday season, and the MTA can’t even function the mass-transit efficiently during one of the busiest seasons of the year. As a life long New Yorker, I have wondered for years how the greatest city in the world can have such a dysfunctional and poorly managed mass-transit system. The MTA 2010 budget is upwards of $11billion according to a recent NYTimes article.

Headline after headline, the public is constantly reminded how the MTA spends our money frivolously. According to a recent report by NYS Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, “inefficiencies and redundancies in the process have cost the agency approximately $2.9 billion in unnecessary spending”. Want another example of out of control spending? The TWU (Transit Union) as part of their contract has 100% of the health care costs paid for. Most people in this country are “hire-at-will”, meaning they can be let-go at anytime, and do not have a “union contract”. Furthermore, most people pay a weekly/bi-weekly co-pay of their healthcare premium that their employer provides. Before returning to graduate school, I paid $30 every two weeks for my healthcare as part of my employee benefits. Lastly, after 25 or 30 years in the system, a transit union employee can retire with full benefits and a pension for life. And if it couldn’t get worse, the cash strapped MTA by judicial fiat is now forced to provide the 35,000 transit union workers a series of huge raises, costing somewhere around $100million to the taxpayer.

(Psst: Father Tony here, after the jump and the rest of Maurice's commentary, I've supplied a photo of Maurice at Vatan without his approval. He's so cute!)

But one has to wonder, who makes the decisions at the MTA? Why are we always threatened with service cuts in the NYC transit system? Upon closer examination of MTA leadership (compliments of, I have uncovered that of a 26-person board of directors, only 1 seat represents the interests of riders from NYC. Furthermore, it seems that only 1 out of 26 of those board members actually lives in NYC, yet another disgrace. Can you imagine, most of the board of the MTA doesn’t live in NYC, ergo doesn’t use mass-transit? No wonder the MTA board is so quick to cut service.

And now comes the piece de resistance, the MTA has another financial shortfall and guess how they will fix it. Yet again on the backs of NYC transit riders, by drastically cutting service and potentially increasing fares. They want to cut the W & Z lines along with scores of bus routes.

How to fix this boondoggle, G-d only knows, but we can start with some fiscal sanity at the MTA. In a struggling economy, it is unconscionable that an un-elected judge mandates a raise for transit workers. Second, the leadership of the MTA should be more representative of NYC transit riders and live in NYC so that they can understand what it means to ride the subway/bus. Lastly, the waste needs to end at the MTA and accountability needs to be restored.

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